Mommy Wars

I know this topic has been covered ad nauseum in practically every single parent blog known to mankind.  And it’s not like I think I have anything new or insightful to add to the fray but since it’s my blog and nobody reads it anyway, I have a few things I want to say about this. 

The other day, I was doing some research on nannies.  (And by “research”, I mean Googling.)  I stumbled upon a forum on one of the more popular sites, probably babycenter or something like that.  Now, I’ve checked out babycenter every now and then.  It’s good for checking out milestones and stuff like that: making sure my kid hasn’t fallen too far off track when it comes to the basics such as babbling or rolling over or whatever.  But beyond that, I don’t delve too deeply into it.  Anyway…the Google machine led me to a link about a mom who wrote on a forum that she was upset because her kid seemed to be preferring the nanny to her.  She said that her child cried for the nanny at night.  She was obviously distressed and a bit heartbroken. 

And…cue the vitriol! 

As you may have guessed, people viciously attacked her.  What did you expect when you decided to prance off to work every day and leave you precious child with somebody who isn’t their mother?  Didn’t you think about this before you had kids?  How DARE you have children knowing you weren’t going to be home to raise them?  Where are your priorities?  Nice to see that the almighty dollar is more important to you than  your own child.  And so on and so forth.  I was saddened but not surprised.  I read enough blogs to know that Moms can be the worst kind of judgy McJudgersons around.  Every time one of my bookmarked bloggers writes a post about either (a) being a stay-at-home mom (“SAHM”) or (2) going back to work, the comments section explodes.  Criticizing other people’s choices or being smug about their own choice.  It just never seems to end.

Full disclosure: I work.  And yes, I feel guilty about it and worry about it and miss my kid like crazy every minute of the day that I’m not at home.  I work out of necessity but have a sneaking suspicion that even if I didn’t have to, I might want to.  Because my husband has more patience than me.  Because I worry about my sanity being at home with a baby all day.  Because I like eating with two hands and without a baby constantly trying to reach for whatever I’m putting in my mouth.  Because I hope someday my daughter will know financial independence and I feel like the best way I can teach her that is by showing her that her mother earns money. 

But then ask me on other days, and I’ll say that I’d like nothing better than to be a SAHM.  Because the bond between mother and daughter is precious and I want to make that as strong as possible.  Because I genuinely enjoy her company and she makes me laugh like nobody else.  Because I want her to feel safe and secure, knowing that she will always be taken care of.  Becuase I hope that someday my daughter will know life is about choices and she’ll know that just as her mother made a choice to stay home, she too can make whichever choice is right for her. 

The point is (and yes, I do have one…I think…): why are we so judgemental?  Why do we feel the need to knock others down?  Does it make us feel better about our own choices because we’re all basically conflicted but don’t want to admit it?  Because as adamant as most mothers sound about knowing that their choice is the right choice, I truly believe that every single one of us has days in which we wish we were doing the opposite.  As I sit here at work, pining away for my daughter’s milk smell and beaming smile, I wish desperately that I were home with her.  And I also know that if I were a SAHM, there’d be days when her crying would be out of control and her newfound mobility would exhaust me and I’d be wishing I were at work, reclaiming my career and bringing home the bacon. 

And so we need to defend our choices and the way most of us seem to do it is by knocking down those that made the other choice.  The one we secretly wish we had made.  C’mon, moms.  Seriously?  How does that help us?  How does that help our children?  It doesn’t.  And all it does is create an environment of resentment, guilt and anger.  Let’s try something new: let’s end the Mommy Wars once and for all, ok?

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10 thoughts on “Mommy Wars

  1. This: “Does it make us feel better about our own choices because we’re all basically conflicted but don’t want to admit it?”

    I think you hit it on the head.

  2. Okay, OF COURSE I couldn’t leave that curt and to-the-point little response! I’m me!

    Look, I have this thing with these neighbors where if I’m not careful, I find myself disliking them because they have made different decisions than we have that have seemed to pay off. They did a longer mortgage than our 15 (which we patted ourselves on the back for), then spent the extra $$$ on beautiful renovations of things. They pulled equity out of their home when they refinanced (a big no-no to us), then redid the roof and landscaping and bought a car.

    I have to constantly remind myself that it’s not fair to dislike them for decisions I wouldn’t make. They made their own decisions, and there are good and bad impacts to all decisions, and even if there weren’t, their decisions don’t make a difference to my decisions! If they had OR hadn’t replaced their roof, we’d still be deciding whether to replace our roof!

    So, yes, that one line hit it on the head, I think (from a non-parent, for disclosure’s sake), because everyone wants to reaffirm their own decisions by being bitchy about everyone else’s.

    • Marisa,

      Thanks for being the first to comment! And I loved your examples of how we internalize other people’s choices even when they don’t impact us at all. We all just need to chill and live our own lives. I hope we can focus on being good people and making the right choices for ourselves and not worry so much about what people are doing. That’s what I’ll be teaching my daughter, anyway.

  3. Tiffany, I think that since the 70’s women have grown up with pressure to be everything, and have it all, all at the same time. I think it doesn’t work. Something has to give. Either the career suffers, or the family suffers, or both, or you feel totally stressed by it all. I also think that starting in the 70’s being a home maker and stay at home mom became less respected as a valid choice for intelligent capable women.
    I think my mom is a good example of doing it all, just not all at the same time. She married in the 50’s at the age of 18, had kids right away, never went to college and stayed home with the kids. I loved having a stay at home mom, and all my friends had stay at home moms too. By the time the youngest one started high school, mom was only 42, so she went to college. By the time she was 50 she had a PHD in psychology and started her own marriage and family counseling business, wrote a column for Arizona business woman, and taught a university course. My sisters and I and her 6 granddaughters are all proud of her.
    I realize, that getting married so young is not necessarily the best choice for today’s women, but I think the point is you can have it all, but trying to do it all at the same time may not be the bet choice. I feel fortunate that I didn’t have to work when my children were young, but that I had a passion of my own that I could pursue part time playing violin with the Napa symphony and performing as a soloist with the community college orchestra occasionally. As they grew older and more independent, I added more performances and now I’m very happy pursuing my music full time. My daughter is proud of my accomplishments, and we have a very close relationship, because I was able to sit on the floor and play dolls with her, read to her, hang out and just talk etc etc. I talked to a friend the other day who has 6 kids. She stayed home and home schooled them. She still home schools the 3 younger ones ages 8, 10 and 11 but she also takes some courses at UC Berkeley just for herself. She has not hired a nanny, and has been able to have family members help with the child care. Maddie will only be so young for a very short time, all things considered. That 10 years will fly by before you know it. By the time she is 10 she will have so many after school activities, and you will have more time to work.
    I think, if you can afford it financially, the best solution is to be a mostly stay at home mom for those first 10 (at least 5 years) and form a strong bond with her. Nobody can love her as much as you do, not even the best nanny. Try to work out a part time work schedule to keep you sane and keep you connected in your field. You’re lucky that Mark is such a great dad, and can probably work out a great schedule with you. I don’t know if it’s possible to work out part time, but in an ideal world, I think you would be happy with that. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you and Mark work out. Maddie is adorable. I love the pictures you’ve posted of her.

  4. In many facets of life, women tend to judge other women MUCH more harshly than they judge men. For myself, I try to handle it like a man would and shrug it off. I do what I have to do, I balance everything as well as possible, and anyone who thinks I’m not doing the best I can can go screw themselves 🙂

    • Hilary, I totally agree with you. For some reason, women are really hard on other women while men get cut a lot of slack. I’m not sure why this is but it’s kind of disturbing to me. Shouldn’t we have each other’s backs instead of attacking each other? But you’re right, all we can do is shrug off any harsh criticism that comes our way. It’s just too bad that it has to be that way.

  5. I’m so glad you are starting this new blog. I have loved looking at My Husband is Annoying as I got married about 6 months after you guys did and now I am pregnant with our first child, so I feel like our lives our parallel in some ways. I have long been concerned about the Mommy Wars and feel it’s an example of what my mother has always said about women, that we can be our own worst enemies at times. I think this is really sad and I think it’s an unfortunate symptom of our own insecurities. I too will have to work full time when I return to my college teaching job next fall. Of all my many concerns about being a new mother, I worry most about returning to work. In some ways, I am very lucky, my position allows for a flexible schedule and I have family who can care for the baby while I work, but my job also requires an intense amount of preparation, grading, etc. and I worry about handling it. Eloquence strings above suggests taking a part time job instead of full time, but I don’t know about you, but that’s not feasible for me. In my field going from a full time professor to an adjunct means losing 3/4s of my salary. I don’t think part time work is the answer. I think society needs to become much more “family friendly” and support new parents, not just mothers. Women in Europe have year long maternity leaves. What a difference that would make for women here who go through that trauma of having to return to work when their babies are as young as 2 and 3 months old. I really wish we could end the Mommy Wars though.

    • Mommyprof, I agree – for most people, working their jobs part-time is just not realistic. In my job, not only is a part-time schedule not feasible but it’s an industry that is constantly changing and if I were to leave it for 5 or 10 years, there’s no way I’d be able to get back in. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. And you’re right: society definitely needs to be more family friendly and our maternity/paternity leave laws should be modeled after those in other countries. I considered myself lucky for getting 8 weeks of paid maternity leave but that really isn’t enough and even though I took a month of vacation to extend my leave, I didn’t feel in any way ready to leave my baby at 3 months old. The only thing that made it ok was that I was leaving her with my husband.

  6. I have an 11-month old daughter and opted to be a SAHM. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t find myself missing my “independence” and feel guilty for thinking it because, I should want to spend ALL my time with my precious little girl, yes? It’s not logical because everyone wants to be a person all their own but that guilt for even thinking that I miss working, having somewhere to be every morning, having a goal and reaching it at the end of the week, hell, sometimes I even miss the hellish commute from Queens to Midtown on the LIRR with all its snooty and rude passengers but at the end of the day, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to work. With that said, I admire you… for having the ability to be a (great) mom and for having a life to call your own outside of the “mommy” and “wifey” positions…

  7. Thank you for this blog! I’ve been reading your other blog and recently started reading your husband’s blog as well, because I too am a working mom of a 6 month old baby girl, and my husband is also (as I’m sure pretty much every woman’s in the world) annoying at times.

    Because we are more or less in the same boat, I can completely relate to what I call the mommy paradox: the nagging, never-ending guilt for leaving your baby to go to work, and the yearning for relief when you spend days on end at home with a demanding child. I miss my baby every minute of every day…I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea it would be THIS hard. And coming from another culture where being a working mom is not only acceptable but the norm, I never thought twice about returning to work. Until the comments started.

    Bottom line is: I think there are always people out there who will try to tear you down, especially by way of the anonymous internet. And as someone already pointed out, women are especially judgmental when it comes to other women’s parenting choices. On Babycenter, there are hundreds of posts arguing about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, vaccinating/not vaccinating, working or staying at home, etc. Basically, it never ends. So all the working mothers of the world need to hold our heads up high that we are the modern-day superwomen, that we bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and change diapers, and that we are setting a model examples for our children of what a strong, independent, confident woman really is. And that, in my opinion, is all that counts.

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